America’s Rugby World Cup reserves, the USA Selects , took on a Glendale Raptor Select side that boasted several former internationals, a handful of Super League players, and the core of USA rugby’s Division I national champion Raptors in a thoroughly enjoyable match under Colorado skies Wednesday evening at Glendale’s Infinity Park Rugby Stadium.
A close halftime margin was broken open by solid hoist-and-harry strategy of Eagle halfback Robbie Shaw, battering runs from their backrowmen, and the slick finishing maneuvers of the threequarter line in the second half.
The Eagles got right on the front foot contesting the kickoff and pinning the Raptors deep after a clearance for touch went awry and was returned to inside the 22. A pair of clearance kicks were blocked in succession and went through goal resulting in a 22 dropout. Eagles gathered and from a set piece 15 meters out, and flyhalf Roland Suniula hesitation feed to Zack Test filling from the weak side put him into space and Test raced to the tryline for the try at the 6th minute. Fullback Tai Enosa made the conversion for the 7-0 lead.
The Raptors roared right back, and when an Eagle forward was pinged for not rolling away at the breakdown, flyhalf Max De Achaval slotted the penalty from just inside the Eagle 10 meter line and it was 7-3 with eight gone.
Eagles kept pressure on and a lineout 10 yards out from the Raptor paint saw the Eagle maul push into goal and with the touch down by Will Johnson and Enosa’s conversion, it was Eagles 14, Raptors 3.
Now the Raptors worked the ball into Eagle territory and probed with their forwards rushing in pick-and-goes for the hard yards before the inside backs questioned their counterparts. And it was second row Casey Rock out wide in support. Rock brushed aside a pair of would-be stoppers on a 15 meter power run into goal. De Achaval’s conversion five meters in from touch reduced the margin to four in the 20th minute.
After a period of heavy duty closeby the Raptor goaline, Troy Hall crossed to end the scoring for the half at 19-10. The home side did well to keep the Eagles out from goal as they banged away at goal inside 10 for the last four minutes of the half, and the Glendale defense stood firm.
Eagles came out after break testing the Raptor back three with box kicks by scrumhalf Robbie Shaw that gained significant ground after mishandles and mental lapses in coverage. It was Shaw who rounded the scrum, attacking at the 22, and swerved smoothly through traffic to touch down. Enosa’s conversion made it 26-10 in the 43rd minute.
Now the half-foot gaps the Raptor defense was able to seal in the first half were left open due to the onset of fatigue by the boys who’d been largely on holiday since the Div I championship. The USA Selects exploited those holes relentlessly. Still Glendale were able to hold their line until the 53rd minute. Glendale was penalized for coming in from the side of the ruck at their 22, and Enosa popped one through the bars for a 29-10 lead at 53 minutes.
And the Selects tallied again five minutes on as Test stepped inside Taylor Howden 15 meters from paydirt, and sprinted into in-goal to dot down. It was 34-10 to the visitors. Four ticks later it was wing Colin Hawley crossing after a free-flowing backline brought Enosa within seven meters of the Raptor line. Enosa nearly scored, but instead executed a textbook scissors movement with Hawley, who finished for a 39-10 lead.
A won Eagle lineout at the Raptor 22 saw the ball spun wide and Troy Hall tallied his second after a burst into space: His own conversion and it was 46-10 at 66. Hawley finished out the night’s scoring with a pair of tries to give him a second-half hat-trick. Hall converted one of them to found out the scoring 58-10.
Convs: De Achaval
Pens: De Achaval
USA Selects XV 58
Tries: Test (2), Johnson, Hall (2), Shaw, Hawley (3)
Convs: Enosa (3), Hall (2)
Officials: T. Luscombe, M. Nelson, B. Zapp